With lean finely textured beef (LFTB), we’re producing beef that is safe, healthy and nutritious, along with drastically increasing the efficiency of the industry,” says Dale Woerner. He’s a Colorado State University assistant professor of meat science.

Rather than the media pariah that LFTB has become in recent months, Woerner says, “All of us in the business view LFTB as a stroke of genius.”

Instead, consumer reaction to an ABC News report about LFTB on March 7 was so loud and stunningly swift that three of the nation’s largest grocers decided to quit offering ground beef containing LFTB. Fast-food giants McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell made the same decision earlier this year.

Though USDA didn’t abandon LFTB, it acquiesced to the public uproar by giving schools participating in the National School Lunch Program the option of choosing ground beef with or without LFTB. The agency also announced it will approve requests by ground beef product makers to voluntarily label their products that contain LFTB.

Keep in mind, USDA approved LFTB and the processes making it possible two decades ago, and the product has been used in billions of meals since then.

“It’s produced according to USDA rules and under USDA inspection,” says J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute (AMI). “USDA’s confidence in the product is evidenced by the fact that it buys the product for its feeding programs. Its safety and wholesomeness is further bolstered by support from leaders in the consumer and food safety communities.”

However, a Walmart statement explains, “As a result of customer and member feedback, Walmart and Sam’s Club will begin offering fresh ground beef that does not contain LFTB… While the USDA and experts agree that beef containing LFTB is safe and nutritious, we are committed to listening to our customers and providing the quality products they want at prices they can afford.”

Ironically, affordability becomes a key issue for ground beef void of LFTB.